Yonas Biru, PhD
Recently, I have become the target of extremist Amharas. It is one thing to be attacked by a herd of YouTuber trollers and their junior Facebook ninjas who serve as bulldogs waiting for the first utterance of ጃስ to attack anyone who questions the wisdom of Amhara extremism. It is another matter altogether when intellectuals become part of the ጃስ orchestra. Three issues triggered this article.
First, Anchor Media was dropped from Mereja TV cable distribution, after Messay Mekonnen refused to submit to their imperious request to stop inviting me to discuss current issues, alleging I am anti-Amhara.
Second, my recent articles on the futile effort of extremist Amhara forces to highjack the Fano movement stirred up the hornet’s nest of extremist wasps, provoking them to sharpen their fang for a social media sting operation against me and any media that dared to give me a platform.
Third, a recent article I wrote on the PM’s seaport-grab endeavor that has led the Ethiopian intellectual nomenklatura to rise up in arms with አካኪ ዘራፍ mindset.
Mereja TV’s and the Amhara extremists’ campaigns against the government’s censorship of the media while themselves engaging in censorship of independent analysts who do not tickle their fancy is hypocrisy on steroids. It reflects the morally malnourished and ethically devoid political culture that our nation is drowning in.
Mereja TV’s Decision to Deplatform Anchor Media
Anchor media is one of the most popular and widely viewed programs both in Ethiopia and across the diaspora community. Mareja TV started distributing Anchor Media’s programs without the latter’s consent or knowledge. Nonetheless, since both entities’ common objective is to reach to as many viewers as possible, this was a win-win arrangement for both.
Anchor media became a target of some Amhara extremists with a concerted campaign to boycott it. Some of them mentioned my regular appearance on the program as one of the reasons why Anchor media must be boycotted. Despite the futile boycott campaign, Anchor media continued its ascent with rapidly increasing viewership.
After months of platforming Anchor Media, Mereja TV took issue with Messay’s continued interest in inviting me as his guest. It was made clear to him that my continued appearance on his show will be a problem since my views are widely considered as anti-Amhara.
Messay stood true to his principles. He rightly expressed his position that he does not agree with me on some key issues and that his program is open to anyone who wishes to present an opposing view. Nonetheless, his program was deplatformed without notice, just as it was initially broadcasted without notice. Let us leave the lack of professionalism aside and focus on matters of principle.
The Hijacking of Fano by Extremist Amhara Diaspora
Amhara is the only human group on this side of planet Mars with 30 to 40 million population that has been economically, politically, and socially disenfranchised for over 30 years and has not been able to produce a political leader, much less a political powerbase.
Amhara lands have been taken on all four corners. During TPLF’s era its development was systematically blocked. It is forced to give Oromos and other tribes administrative zones, but it is denied the same rights in the Oromo and Benishangul tribal lands. Today, Amhara is a target of mass murder in parts of Oromo tribal land where the soil is soaked in blood and fertilized with human gore.
Leaders are seeded when their societies face existential adversaries and grow in stature and influence as the duration and cruelty of the injustice worsens. This is so common in human history that we have come to take it as human nature. Why has the Amhara not lived up to this human nature? The answer is in the curse of Amhara extremists.
What do I mean by Amhara Extremists?
They can be described in many ways. In part they are tribalized, confusing political science that is the art of compromise with theology that regards compromise as blasphemy. In part they are driven by emotion and blind to the light of reason. When you mix theology with emotion, you produce the politics of my way or the highway. Consequently, usurpation becomes the political driving force. In the Oromo tribal land, the toxic mix of Gedaa theology and Oromummaa usurpation has begotten the concept of Shene. Amhara extremists are increasingly Shene-izing the Amhara political landscape.
Ethiopians of all tribal homelands have heard Shaleka Dawit who believes “ኢትዮጵያ የአማራ ነች… ኢትዮጵያን እዚህ ያደረሳት አማራ ነው” and “ኢትዮጵያ የሚያስፈልጋት አማራ አማራ የሚሸት መንግስት ነው::”
Lij Tedla Melaku, Shalek’s second in Amhara Popular Front’s matters of international diplomacy, saw it fit to defend the Shaleka, stating: “ኢትዮጵያን የገነባት እና እዚህ ያደረሳት አማራ ነው ሲባል ይህ ትክክል ነው እውነት ነው። The Lij is also the narrator and curator of “የአማራ ሕዝብ ርዕዮተ ዓለምና ሥነ ልቡናዊ የትግል አቅጣጫ” and “የታፈነው ታሪክ፥ የአክሱም ሥልጣኔ ባለቤትና የትግራይ ፖለቲካ የውሸት ድር.” His manifesto provides ideological and moral foundation to Shalek’s “ኢትዮጵያ የአማራ ነች” political views.
Ethiopians have also read Christian Tadele’s manifesto titled “የምንገነባው ብሔርተኝነት ግራዋ እንጂ ሚሪንዳ ስላለመሆኑ.” One of the points he made was the need to build “ጽንፈኛ የአማራ ብሔርተኝነት.” His recommendation included “የአማራ የሆነን ሁሉ መጠቀም (ከአማራ ያልሆኑ ነገሮችን አማራጭ ካልጠፋና የግድ ካልሆነ በስተቀር አለመጠቀም).” Christian is also the person who declared “አትዮጵያን የፈጠረው አማራ ነው… አማራ ለኢትዮጵያዊነት የውሃ ልክ ነው.“ At the time, I called his political treatise “የውሃ ልክ፣ መሰረት፣ ጣራ፤ ግድግዳ፣ ጣሳ፣ ቆርቆሮ” political Manifesto.
Recently, I was on Roha TV with Meaza Mohammed to discuss this issue. During the interview, Meaza requested that I share the link to Christian’s treatise. The treatise was posted on ቤተ አማራ (Bête Amhâra) Facebook. I provided the link, and the link was working. It has since been removed. https://www.facebook.com/…/a.80952…/1836850163029066/.
The evidence has not swayed the Amhara extremist colony. To the contrary, they withdrew the evidence and continued accusing me of falsely defaming Christian.
Until Amharas are willing to face their own demons, they will forever remain politically irrelevant and socially defenseless. I am addressing this issue in my next article titled “The Hijacking of Fano by Extremist Amhara Diaspora.”
The Assab–Wolkait Swap Proposal and the Rancor It Engendered
On October 19, I published an article about the PM’s Assab Fiasco titled “Sea Outlet Fiasco: Diplomatic, Legal, Economic and War Implications.” In the article I raised three points.
First, on the diplomatic front the issue should have been handled through appropriate diplomatic channels before it was publicly announced. Second, the economic proposal the PM put forth makes no sense from Eritrea’s perspective. Quite frankly, all it showed was the PM has no inkling of economic or business transactions. Third, Ethiopia has no legal means to acquire a sea outlet, be it Assab or any other seaport. Fourth, war has been ruled out both by the PM and Ethiopians. Besides, Ethiopia is in no position to win a war at this juncture or in the foreseeable future.
Having made these cases, I suggested a negotiated land swap as a possibility. Land swap is not uncommon. Belgium and Netherlands have done it. So have Bangladesh and India. Kosovo and Serbia were in talks. Each country has its peculiarities, and such options are taken in due consideration.
In my article I proposed the following:
“I see land swap as a viable option. Assab is of little use for Eritrea. Land swap, for example Wolkait + a part of Gonder or Wolkait + a part of Tigray may attract Eritrea. Having Wolkait will help them boost their agriculture and provide them with a source of foreign exchange. In my opinion, Wolkait + part of Tigray makes more sense. Assab can then be incorporated into Tigray. The thorny question is what will Gonder get, considering its claim over Wolkait?”
When I wrote the proposal, I was well-aware Assab is hundreds of kilometers from Tigray. But the does not prohibit Tigray from having an administrative authority over the territory.
As I have explained in a follow-up interview with Mengizem Media, the proposal could be viable only from Ethiopia’s interest point of view. But the constitution bestows sovereign rights to tribal homelands not to the nation or to Ethiopian citizens. So, the proposal cannot be implemented without first settling who owns Wolkait and whether the rightful owner of the land agrees in the swap.
The proposal was presented for discussion. It was not a policy diktat. For reasons unknowable to modern-day political logic, some Ethiopians took it as though it was a treasonous decree. It is one thing if emotionally susceptible activists and social media trollers get their nose bent out of shape because of the proposal because they lack the intellectual bandwidth and wherewithal. What I found incomprehensible is the hyperventilated reaction of reputable intellectuals.
Let me provide two examples.
Dr. Aklog Birara tweeted: “It is unfortunate and a strategic blunder for any person to pronounce that Amhara must agree to give up Wokait, Tegede, Telemt and Raya to TPLF in exchange of the Assab port. I urge Dr. Yonas Biru to retract his statement.”
Nowhere did I say in my article or follow up interviews “Amhara Must Agree to give up Wokait, Tegede, Telemt and Raya to TPLF.” Nowhere have I mentioned “Must Agree”, “Raya”, or “TPLF” in my article. The fact that Dr. Aklog equates Tigray to TPLF is rather disturbing. The fact that he could not argue on the merit or lack thereof of the proposal from a national perspective is more disturbing. Failing to critique the article taking into consideration its context, pretext and subtext, Dr. Aklog chose to misrepresent it both in substance and form.
How can Ethiopia find a solution to its vexing problems unless its intellectuals are able to bring to bear different opinions for discussion and consideration without reducing it to emotional entanglement?
Abebe Gelaw’s ENV: From Discussion to Debate to Good Old Ethiopian ንዝንዝ
Abebe Gelaw of the Ethiopian Voice Network (EVN) contacted me Stating:
“Your record of providing insightful commentaries and in-depth analyses of the critical issues confronting Ethiopia and its neighboring nations has caught my attention. I believe that a conversation with you would not only be informative but also immensely engaging for our audience.”
I obliged with pleasure to participate. The conversation was nothing close to a valuable intellectual discussion. It did not take much time for it to go from an intellectual conversation to a debate and to a good old Ethiopian ንዝንዝ.
He explained how much the proposal has hurt people from Wolkait. He said these are victims of genocide and emotionally distraught people. The last I checked there is no genocide in Wolkait. But truth has no weight in Ethiopian politics. ENV is not alone in employing the term “genocide” for political dramatization. It is in the company of TPLF and Oromummaa peddlers of genocide for political marketing and staging.
I tried to parse and guide the conversation into two parts. First, I said, let us discuss if the land swap bears the test of principle. If we agree that it stands the push and pull of principle, then we can go to whether the proposal is feasible.
In principle, we know there are precedents in other nations. The feasibility issue is to be determined during the negotiation, including which part of Ethiopia will be swapped. Of course, this assumes Eritrea is open for a land swap. If not, the proposal is dead on arrival.
The second part of the discussion that I proposed was to see the proposal both from Ethiopia’s and tribal homelands’ perspectives. I tried to explain to Abebe that the proposal can make sense only if we see the issues from a national interest perspective. Ethiopia gives up a parcel of land and receives Assab in exchange. The moment we see it from tribal homelands perspective the proposal becomes a complicated mess involving many players.
But he could not discuss the issue from a principled perspective because it would not serve his interest in whipping his audiences’ emotion by keeping the discussion on the proposal that suggested swapping Wolkait + part of Tigray and incorporate Assab into Tigray.
The fact that I stated in the proposal that the next question is what Gonder (where Wolkait is arguably a part of) gets. In the current constitution whoever has legal right to Wolkait (Tigray or Amhara) will have a veto power. Because if they do not agree they can invoke Article 39.
The host could not get past the Wolkait issue because the people of Wolkait are psychologically traumatized and Wolkait intellectuals that he had talked to are hurt and upset. He wanted to keep the discussion on emotional level. The solution for psychologically traumatized intellectuals is psychotherapy not political discussion. In that regard I am of no use to help intellectual on whom the proposal has taken emotional toll.
I wonder if Dr. Aklog and Abebe would have reacted with the same apathy if my proposal was to give up Tigray in exchange for Assab and incorporate Assab into Afar. Or give a good part of Benishangul for Sudan in exchange for a narrow strip of land that will give Ethiopia an outlet to the Red Sea? At least they will not have pulled the TPLF card for political ፍጆታ.
We can also consider a three-country swap that gives Wellega to South Sudan, and South Sudan gives land to Sudan and Sudan, in turn, gives Ethiopia a narrow strip of land that will give Ethiopia an outlet to the Red Sea? The Indo-Bangladesh swap was far more complex than this.
As Ethiopians, we can jump up and down or rant until our faces turn purplish yellow. The fact is Ethiopia has no legal option to secure a sea outlet. None whatsoever. War is not an option especially one that is led by the Field Marshal of Defeat and Retreat.
Even if Ethiopia wins and captures Assab, it will face international sanction like the one Russia is suffering for Annexing Crimea. Land swap is the only viable option under current circumstances. That is if Ethiopia can find a country that would agree to such a deal. Short of that Ethiopia will remain landlocked forever.
This is not the first time that the Amhara extremist community has launched a campaign to deplatform me from Ethiopian political forums. Some months ago, I published an article titled “Averting Civil War in Ethiopia An Emergency Manifesto.” The Manifesto focused on a peaceful resolution to address Ethiopia’s existential political and economic crises. It was addressed to all peace-loving Ethiopians and people of Ethiopian origin, including members of the PP with conscience and sense of constitutional responsibility.
A group of Ethiopians wanted to organize a conference around the topic and asked me if I was interested to present my Manifesto. I agreed. At the last minute, some participants threatened to withdraw if I was participating. Long story short: I was disinvited. They do not want to share a forum with me because I remind them their zero-calorie emotional ደረት ደለቃ and ሙሾ ወረዳ are not substitute to intellectual discourse.
One of the issues that enraged them in the past was my stand on the idiotic #NoMore campaign. Two years ago, they were repeating “እግዚኦ ማሀረነ ክርስቶስ: ብንተ ማርያም ማሀረነ ክርስቶስ” 12 times to the heavenly bodies to help the #NoMore campaign succeed in getting the US out of Ethiopia’s internal affairs.
Today, the same souls have upgraded the “እግዚኦ ማሀረነ ክርስቶስ: ብንተ ማርያም ማሀረነ ክርስቶስ” to a “ኪራላይሶ” level, repeating it 24 times not to the heavenly bodies but to the ominous Biden to respond to their #YesMore ልመና to save Ethiopia.
The other issue that made me a condemned target of Amhara extremists is my proposal to peacefully end the Tigray war. Between November 2020 and November 2022, I published four consistent proposals, insisting the only way out involves four critical steps: (1) The Ethiopian government must stop hunting TPLF leaders, (2) the government must retract its terrorist designation of TPLF, give up its drive to outlaw TPLF, and let Tigrayans select their own interim administration. (3) TPLF must withdraw its unmeetable demands and agree to disarm large weapons, and (4) TPLF must agree to declare its 2020 illegal elections null and void.
I repeatedly stated this is how the war would end. I was vilified for proposing such peace agreement. In the end, the war ended pretty much as I said. The government, the ግፋ በለው Amhara extremists as well as TPLF and its enabling Tigrayan extremists share responsibility to the death of nearly one million people and the destruction of the nation’s economy amounting to $28 billion at last count. The figure continues to grow by the day until the economies of Tigray, Amhara and Afar are fully reconstructed because there is such thing called opportunity cost.
Yet another contention that made me the target of the wrath of Amhara extremists was my rejection of the Amhara genocide campaign. Three years ago, Shaleka Dawit and company collected $405,000 to file a genocide claim with the ICC. I told them no lawyer worthy of his salt will take their claim seriously because they could not prove genocide. After three years, they have not filed a claim, much less win their case before an international court. The money is still in the Bank.
In the end, I was proven right on the genocide claim, just like my positions on the idiotic #NoMore movement, and the negotiated settlement of the war were proven right.
I can go on and on with more example, but that would not be necessary. The thing is not that my tormentors do not get it. They do get it. But it takes them time to get it. Sometimes it takes them a year or maybe two before the eureka moment hits them.
I invite readers to two articles that I have written in the past: “Ethiopia’s Political Problems Reside in Its Mythological National Identity” and “The Unmaking of Ethiopia’s Thinking Class and the Dumbing Down of a Nation.” p;